Remixing Online Content

Reusing Images

Before you reuse images from the web in your research, or repost images on Facebook, Instagram, etc., make sure you can identify the original source. Manipulated images, staged photos, inaccurate captions, and misattribution are rampant online. Here are step-by-step instructions to tracing image sources down online, from Michael Arthur Caulfield's Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers:

  1. Tracking the Source of Viral Photos
  2. Using Google Image Reverse Search

Activity:

The caption and title for the image of flowers below suggest that these photos are from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and that these flowers are nuclear mutations. Can you find any evidence for this? Who took these photos? Where were the photos taken? Where else have they been published or posted? What sources are helpful for fact-checking the veracity of these images? What sources are misleading? (For answers and discussion, see Stanford's Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning [pdf])

Fukushima Nuclear Flowers

Reusing Text

With the advent of digital content creation, publishing, distribution, and sharing via the Internet, consumers—and specifically college students—are simultaneously the producers of and infringers upon intellectual properties. But remixes have not simply emerged with digitization. They have always been a part of any society's cultural development. Shakespeare's primary source for Romeo and Juliet, for example, was a poem by Arthur Brooke called The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iuliet. Centuries later, the hip hop artist Biz Markie was served a lawsuit by Gilbert O'Sullivan, who claimed that Markie's "Alone Again" featured an unauthorized sample from O'Sullivan's hit "Alone Again (Naturally)."

Of course, not everything that authors create is subject to protection under the Copyright Act. Copyright protects only expression, not ideas or facts. Also, Fair use allows limited copying of copyrighted works without having to seek the author/copyright holder's permission, when use is for purposes such as teaching, research, scholarship, reporting, criticism, or parody.  But to what extent has the evolution of social media expanded the permissibility of posting content created by third parties beyond the traditional limits of fair use? While there's no crystal clear answer to this question, both the case law and trends are clear that copyright is very much alive online and that stating “it’s just Facebook/Twitter/Instagram” is not a legal defense to infringement.

Activity:

To demonstrate the remix theme, we have plagiarized—by way of direct quotations and paraphrases—the entirety of the two paragraphs above from a variety of sources online. (This idea is stolen too: from Jonathan Lethem's 2007 article, The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism.)

Can you use Google to figure out the original sources for my plagiarized content above? Tip: Put a phrase inside quotes to find an exact match in Google (e.g., "With the advent of digital content creation").

View Answers!